Good gut health isn’t only important for digestion, but it’s the key to our overall health and wellbeeing too. From keeping our digestive system running smoothly, to playing a role in our brain function, skin health and immune system too, a healthy gut is truly at the centre of our whole wellbeing.
Because of this, it is always a good time to give yourself a gut microbiome makeover! It really isn’t difficult, expensive, or complicated to do.
Let’s start with the obvious— probiotics
When it comes to microbiome-nourishing supplements, I generally have one core recommendation— diversity of probiotics.
For one thing, bigger is not always better, especially when it comes to CFUs. In my mind, quality always trumps quantity. The most important thing to remember about probiotics is that you need to get the right kind of bacteria—and not too many of the same kind. Because at the end of the day, research shows that diversity is the most important feature of a healthy microbiome.
What you need is a probiotic that features multiple strains of bacteria. That’s because your gut hosts thousands of different types of bacteria, so you can’t just supplement with one type alone and expect it to make a difference.
You should also look for a product that contains prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics.
In order for probiotics to function optimally in the body, they need support from prebiotics. The two are designed to work together.
Prebiotics are soluble—or water-absorbing—fiber that help stimulate the production of probiotics all while functioning as food for all the good, probiotic bacteria in your gut.
Inulin and fructooligosaccharides (FOS) are the most common types of prebiotics. You can find these prebiotics in many of my favorite foods, like onions, garlic, asparagus, leeks, jicama, sunchokes, and dandelion greens. They can also be found in Manuka honey – so a spoonful a day is a good habit to start.
So let’s break this down before moving on: Prebiotics feed the probiotics, and probiotics generate postbiotics.
Postbiotics are biochemical compounds produced by the different types of bacteria which all produce different types of metabolites—each with individual roles that protect your health.
These postbiotic metabolites include:
- Amino acids, the all-important protein building blocks I often about
- Bacteriocins, which kill bad bugs
- Enzymes, which enhance digestion
- Neurotransmitters, which affect everything from mood to appetite, and key immune-signaling compounds
- Nitric oxide, which boosts blood flow throughout your entire body
- Short-chain fatty acids, which reinforce your gut’s lining—and organic acids that balance our gut’s pH
- Vitamins, including B-vitamins, which help your body perform basic metabolic functions, and vitamin K, which supports heart and bone health
But to really maximize your microbiome’s health, you shouldn’t stop there…
There are plenty of other things to take and do for that gut makeover. Let’s start with Manuka Honey.
We know it to have natural antibacterial action but Manuka Honey can boost levels of a strain of lactobacillus, which also protects against stomach ulcers. That natural anti-bacterial action may work well against one of the main bugs that causes food poisoning - Clostridium difficile. A 2013 study revealed Manuka Honey inhibited the growth of the bacteria and could be an effective potential treatment.4
Aside from a high-quality probiotic, your gut also needs the right kinds of vitamins. Supplements like Vitamin D. Recent studies show that just five weeks of Vitamin D supplementation can reduce populations of certain potentially harmful bacteria in the upper GI tract. All while boosting the richness and diversity of beneficial flora.1-2
One last thing to mention here are enzymes. These tiny molecules help your body break down food so it passes through your system more easily, so you get the vital nutrients from the food you eat. Look for a produce that contains cellulase, papain, bromelain, lactase, lipase and amylase.
If you want to try Manuka Honey for gut health, why not try mixing it with other gut-friendly foods? Here are some ideas:
- Swirl a spoon of Manuka Honey into some plain live yoghurt or kefir, which contains probiotic bacteria. Adding Ginger into the mix is also good
- Add a little Manuka Honey to a pineapple, papaya, and apricot fruit salad – fruit is rich in fibre, essential for feeding good gut bugs
- Spread Manuka Honey onto a fibre-dense oat based biscuits (sugar-free) and add chopped banana, another effective prebiotic.
And no talk about health can ever forget lifestyle changes such as getting enough sleep, working on stress levels and minimizing processed foods.
- “Effects of high doses of vitamin D3 on mucosa-associated gut microbiome vary between regions of the human gastrointestinal tract.” Eur J Nutr. 2016 Jun;55(4):1479-89.
- “Vitamin D Signaling through Induction of Paneth Cell Defensins Maintains Gut Microbiota and Improves Metabolic Disorders and Hepatic Steatosis in Animal Models.” Front Physiol. 2016 Nov 15;7:498.
- “Vitamin D deficiency changes the intestinal microbiome reducing B vitamin production in the gut. The resulting lack of pantothenic acid adversely affects the immune system, producing a ‘pro-inflammatory’ state associated with atherosclerosis and autoimmunity.” Med Hypotheses. 2016 Sep;94:103-7.
- Hammond EN and Donker ES. Antibacterial effect of Manuka honey on C.difficile. BMC Res Notes. 2013 May 7;6:188